By Marilyn Mora, AmeriCorps member serving at the Sarah Greenwood K-8 School
Andy* was nowhere to be found. Slouched quietly in his chair he was physically present in the classroom, but mentally he was not as engaged.
“Andy? Andy, hello, did you hear me? Where are your books, where’s your notebook today?” The teacher’s voice nudged Andy’s thoughts back to the classroom.
He straightened up in his seat a little, as his eyes began to focus on the teacher addressing him.
Sometimes, Andy came to school with his backpack brimming with books, notebooks, and other school supplies. Other days he was lucky if he arrived without even a pencil on him.
Andy wasn’t a scattered, messy person. His locker and backpack were kept neatly organized. It became evident that Andy’s lack of preparedness wasn’t caused by disorganization. In the early morning breakfast hours, he found it challenging to remind himself of the daily routine of packing and bringing his school bag.
I empathized with Andy’s challenges as I too would forget important “to dos.” One strategy that I use is to immediately anything I need to remember down on a sticky note. It took me some time, but I finally found a system that worked for me. I wondered if a similar method would work for Andy.
The next day, I brought a bright blue sticky-note pad with me to class. At the end of the class period, I showed Andy the sticky-notes and said, “This notepad is going to be on my clipboard today. I’m going to write down everything you need for classes tomorrow, okay? You need to find me, please, at the end of the day so that I can give it to you.”
Andy found me at the end of the day, and we verbally reviewed what he needed for the next day before I gave him the sticky note. The next day at school I eagerly sought him out to see if my idea had helped. As soon as he saw me he said, “I’m sorry Mrs. Mora I almost remembered.”
I assured him that it was okay and that we would try again that day. I knew that with consistent coaching and reminders, Andy could meet his goal we created together. It took about a week, but finally one day he came in and proudly showed me his books and homework he had ready for the day, the only thing he had forgotten was a pencil to write with.
We continued with our system for another week and it was growing increasingly successful. But, I knew Andy would still need to take charge of writing his own reminders.
The following week I handed him my blue sticky-notes and marker and said, “Today, you get to use my sticky-notes and marker. You’re going to write down what you need. At the end of the day let’s review if we wrote the same things down.” He was so excited to use the tools provided and at the end of the day when we compared notes he had successfully written down all that he needed.
I gave him his own marker and notepad, and now he checks-in with me. Somedays he forgets some things, but the change in his behaviors since the beginning of the year has been astounding. I’m so excited to see the person he will be at the end of the year.
* Name changed to protect student privacy.